I watched A Streetcar Named Desire on Tuesday while I was home sick and I think it is one that I’m going to have to purchase and add to my collection. I really liked this film for multiple reasons. It of course rekindled my crush on Marlon Brando but it also has quality acting, a great storyline, interesting cinematography, and genuine character development. It’s no wonder this film is on the American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time. It was made in the early 1950’s and it is still relevant today. In fact if it weren’t for the dated clothing and some minor cultural references, it could easily pass for a modern day film. It stands the test of time and frankly begs the question, what more could you want from a movie?
Marlon Brando is widely considered one of the best actors of all time. I’ve only seen a few of his films, but I would agree that he gives superb performances in each of them. He is fully committed to his role and provides depth and realism that draws the viewer into the story. Yes, he has somewhat of a “typical” role that he falls into, but he still manages to show variety in each one and you don’t feel as though you are watching one of his previous characters being morphed into the current one. Plus, on the superficial level, Brando is just fun to watch. He is one of the iconic men of the 1950’s who just exudes charm and you can’t help developing a crush on him.
A Streetcar Named Desire's plot is complicated, at best. It’s not a movie you can half-heartedly watch. You have to pay attention or you’ll have no hope of ever understanding what is going on. I wish I had paid more attention while I was watching, but I think I caught most of it. Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) arrives in New Orleans to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Stella and Stanley Kowalski (Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando). On the surface it appears that DuBois’ arrival has disrupted the happy life the Kowalskis have together, but as the film carries on the viewer discovers that there is more going on than the eye can see.
Stella and Stanley have a volatile relationship that is hot and cold but fueled by passion, and alcohol. DuBois’ past is mysterious and her actions are peculiar. The viewer is never quite sure whether to trust her or not. She is not perfect, but neither are Stanley or Stella. Each character has his or her own demons to deal with and they try to hide them while pointing out the faults of others. It’s a rough ride that the stars of the story take us on, but in the end it’s one that examines real issues of secrecy, betrayal, abuse, and the desire to be wanted, to be a part of a group, and to be taken care of.
As I mentioned, there is a reason this film is a timeless classic. Everyone can relate to it and in some way we are each a part of each of the characters. As humans we are capable of so much and each of our actions has a consequence. We can run from our past but it will catch up with us at some point. We can ignore what is happening in front of us or we can take a stand and make a difference. We can become so focused on the problem that we can’t see the solution. A Streetcar Named Desire is really a fascinating case study on humanity and how vulnerable we really are.